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Thread: The Duke`s Chronicles - AAR

  1. #1
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    The Duke`s Chronicles - AAR

    My name is....rather unimportant. But since I want to tell you about my life, well, at least a short time of my life when I was young, it would be rude to not introduce myself. So my name is Pierre de Courtenay, Lord of Swadia, loyal vassal, advisor and friend to King Harlaus II. in this year 1302 of the second era.

    My life begun 65 years ago, but the events mentioned in my diary start when I was age twenty. But enough of this preface. I came here to give account about my past deeds, so I should not hesitate to let the play begin. Shall these notes be a lesson to all the others seeking fame and fortune in Calradia. And a sweet reminder of the taste of youth to myself. It`s late march of the year 1257, the first day of my new life in Calradia.

    Day 1 - Land of Hope

    "Don`t look back" my father always said. Right now I have nothing to look back to, but I still have a past to tell about.

    My father. He was travelling around, buying and selling things to the people. He knew most of the land and he enjoyed visiting new places and learn about the locations and their inhabitants. He was a good merchant, so he accumulated a modest wealth for him and my mother, who always was with him.

    I was born in a little village named Courtenay, which my parents passed accidently when the contractions began. And I think it was my birth that made my father to settle in a nice little city called Gutingi. When I grew up to be old enough to take up a profession, my father wanted me to become a travelling merchant too. I could have done so because I learned all his tricks. But I was used to live in a single place, so I decided to become a craftsman.

    A local smith took me as apprentice and after a few years I became a master myself. I was ready to start my own shop. But fate was ready to crush my dreams. The country we lived in was peaceful and prosperous, but also small and weak. So an other country, a nation of natural born soldiers, came from the south and invaded our land. Soon they appeared before our walls. After a brief siege they assaulted and took the city by storm. I was one of the lucky few who escaped by horse from the following onslaught. My family, my friends, my love....all gone.

    I was alive. But where should I go ? All the values I knew since my childhood, liberty, progress, tolerance, education, meant nohing to the conquerors. So I had to leave. I headed for the western mountains. After a long, exhausting and dangerous journey through deep valleys and over snowy passes I entered a new land and a new life. Now I`m here, in the midle of nowhere in a region called Calradia.

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:49.

  2. #2
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    Day 2 - A stranger in town

    Curaw ! Finally a civilized place in this sheer infinite snowy landscape. I was happy to find a tavern where I could have a warm meal and a real bed to rest my head. The next evening I sat among the other guests over a mug of Ale, reconsidering my options. Stay here and open a store ? Not enough money. Get a job ? Well, the citizens had been friendly but left no doubt, that nobodoy here would ever employ a foreigner. Wander to the next town ? Different place, same problems. And I made the experience, that the streets are not safe. Fortunately the four villains who tried to get their hands on my gold were not too experienced in wielding their knifes. Even more fortunate, I`m not just able to produce swords, I also know the basics of using them.

    Staring at my drink I must have been a sorry sight to see, cause suddenly a man took place at my table. "A new face in town and a pretty sad one." He gave me a new Ale. "Maybe this will help. But tell me, what`s your problem, pal ?". Since I had no one else to talk to I told him my story.

    "That`s it. So what can I do now ?"
    "I don`t know. But I see that you already know what you will have to do.". He pointed at a dark spot of dried blood on my coat. A reminder of the encounter with the four rascals.
    "That`s your advice ? To ride around and kill people each and every day for the rest of my rotten life ? No thanks, better a beggar here than a murderer out there."
    "I didn`t say that. Do as you please. But be aware, that, as soon as you are leaving this house, there are hundreds of outlaws who will cut your throat for half a denar. And nobody is going to miss them if they....disappear."
    "Is there no other way to get some capital to build up a new existence ?"
    He looked at me with an impression of amusement. "Boy, you have a mount and a blade and in this world it`s all the capital you need to make something out of your life."

    Suddenly he became serious again and looked me straight in the eye. "But no matter what your plans are: The world is watching you, nothing you do will keep unnoticed. Behave well, and fortune is coming your way.". He stood up and vanished in the crowd before I even got to ask him who he was.

    I kept sitting there. The pub was full of people, it was hot, loud and stuffy. I tried to order my thoughts but was too drunk already. At the other side of the room a young woman started singing a song saying that this is the life or something like that. In a streak of fatalism I thought: "Maybe she is right. Well, so be it. Calradia, here I come."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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  3. #3
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    Day 28 - Greed and Goodwill

    After crossing the river the whole thing got much easier. Simply head west over a more or less flat and plain landscape for endless boring hours. But it was my fault saying "Yes" when the guild master of Khudan asked me to herd cattles. Fortunately these cattles are the stoic type and don`t need much attention besides having a look at the direction they are heading for.

    In the morning, a vague silhouette appeared at the horizon. "Just two more hours to Suno", I thought with relieve. My contact person waited at the city gate to hand me a letter addressed to the guild master of Khudan, saying, that he should pay me for the fulfilled job.

    I was tired. But I was also eager to get the payment so I rejected the plan to stay in Suno over night. Slowly riding away, I recalled the events of the last weeks. Travelling around, establishing contacts, getting jobs done. The jobs ! Delivering mail and wine, collecting debts, even handing over ransom to a group of kidnappers to free a merchant`s daughter. That was a strange experience. There was a band of about 30 people. They could have overwhelmed me easily but they didn`t. They just took the money, let the girl leave and went away. I secretly followed them and they went to the next village. They and the peasants must be partners ! I should tell someone.

    Rather hilarious than strange is the fact, that everyone, even the highest lords of the country, are talking to a complete Nobody like me and entrust me valuable things or messages. I really don`t understand it.....

    "That`s because you are the only one stupid enough to do it.", Ibelin said. On my way back I met a caravan setting up a camp and I joined. Now we were sitting in the darkness around the campfire for a little chat.
    "Stupid ? These so called `tasks` are ridiculously simple."
    "That`s what you say. You have a sword and since you are still alive I guess you know how to handle it. Most people don`t. They live their lifes in their villages and cities, never moving to another place. That`s dull but safe. And it is dangerous out here. So it`s rather understandable that they don`t risk their lifes just to get a letter from A to B. On the other hand, these jobs have got to be done. Since the locals won`t do it, one has to rely on wandering strangers like you."
    "Who are, opposed to their own kin, expendable..."
    "Now that you mention it, yes. And you are cheap. Say, what do you get for delivering a letter or a load of Ale ?"
    "30 Denars for a letter. Ale ? Up to 150, depending on the distance I have to travel."

    Speaking that, I realized, that my life has a much higher worth. Ibelin noticed the expression of dawning comprehension on my face.
    "I tell you something. These jobs are fine if you want to improve your standing with the respective client. But you don`t earn much. And IF a job is lucrative you can be darn sure that someone is going to hate you for what you do. If you want to make some serious money you have to trade. Or, maybe, get some loot."
    "Loot ?"

    He stood up and went to a pile of cargo. Did I say cargo ? Treasures ! Fine silk, loads of aromatic spices I never have seen before, all conceivable kinds of furs and well-made tools and tons of the best wine from a country I never heard of. Now I understood my father and the excited undertone in his voice, when he told tales `from the good old days` when he was wandering around. And I understood, why this caravan had so many guards. So much wealth attracts the crows.

    Ibelin returned with a yellow round shield.
    "This one belonged to a small group of raiders which was foolish enough to attack us. Well, they don`t need it anymore and for me it is simply another good I can sell without having paid for it. It`s pure profit. By the way.....interested ?"

    He gave it to me. I looked at Ibelin, unsure if I should like his pragmatic style or not. Then I examined the shield. It wasn`t heavy but it conveyed a sense of security....

    "Do you sell armor too ?"

    Ibelin grinned.

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:50.

  4. #4
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    Day 59 - A close call

    What a beautiful morning. A clear blue sky, a small river running leisurely through the landscape, now and then a shallow hill and a few trees full of birds singing their songs to greet the new day. A perfect idyll with no soul around. Just me, my horse.....and 14 men I thought of being a patrol. Coming closer I realized they are deserters. A few of them mounted, so there was no way to avoid the battle.

    They were well equipped. Shields, swords, axes, the horsemen partially with lances. I took a deep breath, tightened the reins in my left hand, drawed the sword with the right and charged towards them.

    I circled around them, trying to avoid the horsemen for the moment and hitting the infantry. There ! The guy with the sword holding his shield to low. I advance towards him. He realizes the danger. Instead of stepping aside he tries to attack. Too slow ! My sword is going across his chest. A loud "Ump" is his last word. To the left an unaware man. I change my direction sharply, confusing my enemies. He turns around to confront me. A moment later my sword falls down on his head.

    Only two infantrymen left, both with pikes. Later ! Now the horsemen. I try to meet them in a T-position with them approaching at a right angle, so I can either hit them or the horse so they "dismount". The first to the right. I reach out and.....darn !......too uncautions and I get hit by his lance.

    I feel the pain in my waist. Looking down I see that I`m over and over sprayed with blood. No idea if some of it is mine.

    A tortured neigh. This one has lost his horse. A charge later his life is gone too. Finally, only the two infantrymen are left. No more risks. Time for the crossbow. Shortly after all is quiet again.

    Except me. My heart races, I`m all stressed, heated, sweaty, the wound hurts and my swordarm is shaking. I`m looking around. Blue sky, a river, the trees, the birds singing.....just me, my horse, 14 corpses......a perfect idyll.

    Later that day I sat at the fire, treating my wounds. One at my waist, another at my right leg which I didn`t notice until I dismounted. Nothing serious at all, but still two more scars. This has got to stop ! It`s comfortable travelling all alone but too dangerous in the long term. I`ve been lucky to survive this encounter but next time maybe I`m the one who bites the dust. "I need some company", I said to myself.

    Suddenly a snort right behind me. I turned around as fast as I could and of the runaway horses of the deserters, maybe attracted by my own one.

    I put aside my sword and granted myself a smile. "Well, not really the company I had in mind but a good start.". I patted the horse`s neck. "Hello beauty. Let`s see if we find someone to join us."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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  5. #5
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    Day 64 - Soldiers and Sergeants

    "Your name?"
    "If you want to join my company, sign here."

    He made an X where his name should stand, just like the two others. The last days I travelled across the land, hiring man for my party. And it`s been always the same. Riding to a village, speak to the Elder if he could gather all young male inhabitants, holding a speech about opportunities and a stable income and finally waiting for volunteers. Usually 2 or 3 men were willing to join and I think the 10 denars initial payment I offered for each recruit did their share.

    It was late so I rented the feast hall to stay there over night. I was about to go to sleep when Ferris came to me.

    "May I have a word with you, sir ?"
    "Well, sure. What`s the matter ?"
    "Do you want to recruit more men, sir ?"
    "The more the better, don`t you think ?"
    "No, not really. Including you we are 25 men now. But look at us. One mounted man and 24 peasants. Right now we are twice handicapped. We are slow, which will get more and more of a problem with every man extra. And since you are the only man with namable weapon skills our combat value is extremely low. So our party is a perfect victim as it is."
    "It seems to me, you know what you are talking about."
    "Oh, sir, that`s a bleak story."
    "Why don`t you tell me ?"
    "As you please, sir. About five years ago I joined the company of our local Lord and served as infantryman for about two years."

    "And how come you were a farmer at Tahlberl when I met you."
    "I was getting tired of all the killing, fighting, marching and looting, sir. So I decided to quit and spend my money for a plot of land. At first it was fine. The other peasants were curious and treated me with respect since I was the only one of them who saw the world. But a farmer`s life is even more wretched than a soldier`s one. And maybe it`s true what they say about mercenaries: Once you take up arms you can`t live without them. So I think it was a sign when you came to our village."

    "That sounds bitter. But now you have a new task. Since you are experienced I think you should be my drill sergeant."
    He looked at me with an expression of surprise mixed with a little bit pride.
    "Thank you, sir. But it won`t be enough to drill them. Yes, it is important to teach them how to use their weapons. But one hour in battle is as valuable as one month of training."
    "You think we should seek combats ?"
    "At least we shouldn`t avoid them if the risk is moderate."
    "I`ll think about it. Go tell the men about your promotion."
    "Yes, sir."

    He went to the door.
    "And Ferris...."
    "In front of the men call me `Sir`. But otherwise call me Pierre. You are now my sergeant......and my friend."
    He smiled. "I`ll do."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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    Day 95 - Crossroads

    Calradia. A long time ago the whole land belonged to one single empire. But then something must have happened. Maybe the central authority eroded, maybe there was civil unrest, maybe there was a series of bad harvests. Whatever it was, the empire fell apart into five realms.

    The origin and heartland of the old empire was Swadia. And yet, with centuries having passed since the old order has vanished, its remnants are still visible everywhere. In spite of the fact, that each nation has its own language, swadian is spoken throughout the land. Its feudal structure has been adopted by all kingdoms. Measures and weights are standardized.

    Swadia, "the jewel of the empire", as an ancient author wrote, is modest and pleasant in all regards. Apart from a short winter, the climate is mild, so are the people and their laws. Its flora and fauna is rich. Vast farm- and pastureland changes with dense woods. Lovely open plains with majestic mountain ranges. Even if times are hard, life seems to be a bit less cruel when spent here.

    As much impressive as its scenery is its military power. Swadian smiths have reached mastership in creating heavy armor for both infantry and cavalry and the combination of swadian Knights and Sergeants strike fear into the heart of every enemy.

    And now the ruler of this fine and powerful realm, King Harlaus, sent me a message inviting me to his court. The messenger appeared in our camp near Uxkhal. A large, black-haired, strong man on a armed horse. In his left hand a golden bordered swadian banner, marking his rank as supreme herald of the kingdom. Each of his words and gestures expressed dignity.

    "Is Pierre de Courtenay present ?"
    "Yes. How may I serve you ?", I said, stepping out of my tent.
    "I bring you a message from my Lord and Master, King Harlaus of Swadia, ruler of the four provinces. He invites you to his capital and offers you to become one of his vassals with all resulting rights and responsibilities." He gave me a sealed letter.
    "Tell your Lord that I thank him for this honorable offer and that I will consider it seriously."
    "My Lord awaits your answer within 30 days."

    That`s why Ferris and I are sitting in the tavern of Praven, three days before the deadline.
    "What would you do ?", I asked him. "Become his vassal ? Refuse and affront him ? Wait for a better offer ? Stay independent forever ?"
    We looked at each other and I can`t tell who of us was more helpless.

    "Well, well. The new face and his new friend. Not sad anymore but anxious to let the colours flap in the wind. Maybe this will help."
    The stranger from Curaw ! I think I looked quite surprised, Ferris rather hostile than confused. The stranger placed two Ale on the table and took seat.
    "Flapping colours ? What are you talking about ?"
    "If you choose to become Harlaus` vassal you get your own banner."
    "And what do you know about that ?"
    "Not more than any other man. The stranger who became a wanderer, the wanderer who became a merchant, the merchant who became a captain, the captain who might become a Lord. Interesting career."
    "And what`s your interest in this process ?"
    "Me ? I`m just a spectator of the world. Antor, at your service.", a brief bow.
    "Your real name ?"
    "Who knows ?"

    Ferris became impatient. "Alright, you like to play the mysterious man. What about telling us something useful for a change ?"
    "I`ll do my very best. The five kingdoms are caught in a eternal battle for supremacy. Right now, the Vaegirs are at war with all other realms and the results of this will be interesting. Swadia fights against the Vaegirs only, so joining now wouldn`t be the worst move."
    "And if I don`t ?"
    "Nothing. Or do you think the world stops just because you want to stay solitary ?"
    "This is all so helpful.", Ferris said.
    "It is ! All I`m saying is, that you might join today and quit tomorrow and nothing will happen to you. But in the short term, it will be a real advancement in power and prestige. And that`s what you are searching for."
    "Is that so ?"
    "Sure. Believe me, one day you will realize that I`m right."
    He stood up, greeted both of us and left.

    "Strange guy. You know him ?", Ferris asked.
    "Well he seems to know everything about you."
    "The world is watching...", I said to myself.
    "What ?"

    I looked up, noting a official proclamation nailed to the wall.
    "Yet this guy helped me somehow, because I know what to do now."

    Ferris followed my view. When realizing my thought he leaned back rolling his eyes.
    "Oh Brother...."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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  7. #7
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    Day 96 - Renown and Reward

    It was a marvellous sight. The tournament arena seemed to be the center of the world for one day. All around the place banners of the Kingdom and the competing Lords. Thousands of people from all over the Kingdom. Peasants from the nearby villages in their shabby working clothes staring with big eyes upon this unusual and splendid event. Simple townsfolk taking a day off to get entertained. Wealthy merchants, eager for spectacular action as well as showing their riches by their precious clothing and jewelry. Finally, separated from the common folk, the Nobles and their families.

    Then the march-in of the competitors. 64 men and women from all across Calradia. Common warriors and knights at the top. Some of them known tournament fighters, greeted with cheers by the spectators. Then the competing lords in complex designed armor under silk surcoats showing their colours. Eventually the King himself, who hosted this tournament to honor the birth of his youngest son.

    With a gesture of his hand he ordered the tournament to begin. Since it was a royal tournament, the lance was the only valid weapon. Each round, all remaining competitors were assigned to different teams. The "survivors", and sometimes the most courageous, of each round qualified for the next one.

    The first round was frustrating. I tried my best but couldn`t get a hit. Fortunately the other 4 men in my team were more fortunate and so our team won. Round 2 started great with me knocking an opponent down with my first charge. Shortly after I eliminated another one from the tournament who made the mistake to move too slowly along the arena wall. Unfortunately I was thrown off my horse myself next, but the tournament master let me pass to round 3 since I had shown skill and courage.

    The next rounds I survived by showing caution and skill. So I found myself right in the final with King Harlaus. We both charged. But before the clash I started a long curve to the right, forcing the King to follow me. Some people were booing, thinking I won`t fight and donate the victory to the King. Suddenly I pulled the reins, forcing my horse to nearly stop movement while completing a tight circuit. The King passed me. I spurred my horse and charged right behind him. He tried to escape to the left, but I was closing in. By hitting him, he fell off his horse.

    The crowd went wild, the tournament had a winner. People were throwing flowers and shouting my name. Meanwhile some squires entered the arena, helping the King back on his feet and leading away the horses. Ferris arrived to bring me my sword.

    The King approached and the people cheered, awaiting the award ceremony with me being declared victor of the day. But all became quiet when suddenly I kneeled before the King, lowered my head and offered him my sword. He understood and took it.

    "Pierre de Courtenay has proven himself to be a valorous and skilled combatant, competent leader and chaste man, thus being worthy to become my vassal. So I ask you: Are you willing to swear homage ?"

    "My Lord, I swear homage to you as lawful ruler of the Kingdom of Swadia. I will remain as your loyal and devoted man as long as my breath remains and I will be at your side to fight your enemies should you need my sword. Finally, I will uphold your lawful claims and those of your legitimate heirs."

    "Let it be known, that from this day foreward Pierre de Courtenay is my sworn man and vassal." He touched my head and shoulders with the sword.
    "Rise, Lord Pierre de Courtenay."

    When rising after having kissed the King`s seal ring, the town seemed to vibrate by all the cheers, hurrahs and congratulations by the folk, overwhelmed by this unexpected event and the rest of the day was spent with banquets, dance and song by all the people.

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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  8. #8
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    Day 103 - A peasant`s life

    Early summer. On a bright sunny day our company is marching across the plains towards Chide, the village the King granted me as fief.

    After the tournament we spent a few days in Praven to rest and enjoy the good things in life. And, of course, to paint our shields. A black eagle on yellow ground, the colours of my former home.

    "Feeling fine, Ferris ?", I asked, passing him.
    "Yes, sir !", he giggled. I think, none of the men spent as much time at "Meat Street", the place in Praven, where most butchers and whores can be found, as he did. Even more, after the message came, that peace was declared between Swadia and Vaegir, meaning, that the Realm has no enemies now.
    "That`s how it should be, sir. We are indeed walking on the sunny side of life. And I think that, as soon as we reach.....what the ..."

    Crossing the top of a hill we saw Chide. Villages always look the same and never wealthy, but this one was a more miserable sight than I ever could have imagined. Obviously it has been raided shortly before the peace agreement with the Vaegir. No cattle around, the fields burned, so were two buildings, one of them probably being the granary. Riding into the village one could almost smell poverty and hunger. And looking at the farmers I noticed, that there were many familiar faces around.

    "So you are saying, that these farmers are kidnappers ?", Ferris asked later that day.
    "Yes, shortly after arriving in Calradia, I took ransom to a group near this village. Now I recognized many of them. The village elder was their leader. Unbelievable."
    "So what ? They treated the girl good and made some money. Such things are common here."
    "One could think, you agree with it."
    "I do. I think it`s some kind of, ehm, poetic justice."
    "How on earth can a crime be just ?"

    He straightened himself.
    "Pierre, I told you once, that a farmer`s life is a wretched one, and that was understated. It depends on the weather in the first place. A good summer with enough rain means you and your familiy will survive. Otherwise there will be hunger and death. And even if you have enough to eat, you have to get your goods to the nearest market. A dangerous journey, cause as unarmed farmer you are perfect prey for all the bandits out there. Who might also come to your village, if they think, they are strong enough, stealing cattle and supplies and maybe killing some people. And I`m still talking about peacetime. In war, there are a lot of enemy warbands, looting, burning and killing everything in their way. And nobody helps them. Their own lords only show up to collect taxes and recruit the young man, leaving behind the ones too old, weak or dull to become soldiers only. Sometimes these recruits become deserters or bandits themselves, returning to rob their former neighbours. So these people have lots of enemies and no friends in this world, so I think there is no harm in a little kidnapping. The hostages are completely safe, otherwise their relatives would send some soldiers instead of ransom the next time. But as it is, the hostages return to their homes, the farmers get money to survive and everybody is happy."

    I considered what he said.
    "Still I think, that these kidnappings have to stop. But it`s true that they won`t as long as the basic conditions won`t change. And they will change !"
    "Sounds as if you have a plan."
    "In the short term, these people need money, cattle and protection from bandits. I`ll speak with the Elder what is most needed. But in the long term we have to improve the infrastructure. And I`ll start by building a mill and maybe a small rural school."
    "It will be expensive."
    "But it will be worth while. The mill will make sure, that they won`t have to travel somewhere else to get their corn milled and pay for it. And the school provides some basic education, so their children will have better chances to make something out of their lifes."
    "Thus making them more content while paying more money to you via the mill."
    "And everyone will be happy..."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:51.

  9. #9
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    Day 121 - Special encounters

    Nobody is perfect. And if there is a place for imperfection, then any Calradian tavern. Cities have always been a magnet for the despaired and haunted, seeking a new life or hiding from their pursuers. But in the tavern, all these individuals melt to an own microcosm.

    You can meet people broker ransoms for prisoners of war, mercenaries eager to get hired for any kind of bloody business, merchants selling books (as if anyone had the time or peace to read in such a place !), farmers desperately seeking help, thieves and townsfolk, nobles and beggars.

    In a tavern everything can be bought, from simple informations about someone`s whereabout to a sudden death for a rival. And stories, the cheapest good. For an Ale everyone will tell you his or hers life story. You will hear about lost wealth, intrigue, avoided marriages, murder, even fratricide.

    So now I`m here at the tavern of Reyvadin because of my own imperfection. I realized that I need someone to join my company with higher medical knowledge than I or any other of my men had. During a overnight stay at Almerra Castle I had heard about a wandering doctor named Jeremus, who cured the Lord from dropsy, so I pursued him to this place. He was quite lucky he could accompany us, because he was in a little trouble, maybe being charged for witchcraft. After giving him a small advance he left, walking to our camp.

    It was early afternoon and there were just a few guests. I went to the bar for a drink. Looking around I noticed a young woman having a modest meal. While watching her, I assumed she must be tired or deep in thoughts, because she was eating more and more slowly. Suddenly she dropped knive and fork, stood up, came across the room and stopped right in front of me.

    "Hvem er du ?", she said angrily.
    "Pardon ?"
    "Ah, I see, you`re just another flat-breasted swadian good-for-nothing, hanging around, bragging with made-up war stories to impress women stupid enough to believe them just to treat them like a piece of meat !"

    I have to admit, that I turned red when being addressed like this by a woman. I pointed at my coat of arms on my surcoat, referring to my nobility.

    "Hmf. Dignity and manners can`t be granted like a coloured scrap of silk. So tell me who you are, before I cut your useless head off your neck for staring at me as if I were some common prostitute waiting for the next client."
    "I`m Pierre de Courtenay and I..."
    "The new star in the swadian sky ?". A short pause.
    "Ha, and I thought, you were one of these noble`s brats searching an adventure. What are you doing here ?"
    "I`m searching for capable men I can add to my company."
    "That suits me fine. If you are also willing to recruit women, I`ll be more capable than any of your so-called men. At least, as long as I`m treated like a Lady."
    "And if you are willing to fight our enemies instead of my men, I`ll be a most worthy captain."

    She laughed.
    "Vi får se, skrythals."

    She turned around, heading back to her table.
    "Ehm, and with whom have I the pleasure....?"
    "Matheld Ansgarsdottir. Expect me at your camp."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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  10. #10
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    Day 154 - Gangs of Calradia

    It`s interesting as well as helpful to know, how brigandism is connected to the topography. In the plains one will encounter wretched groups of beggars, being armed with knifes only and unarmoured. Since there is no place for them to hide, they are easily beaten by any organized force. In the vast khergit steppe, the bandits are, as everyone else there, mounted, making it easy for them to avoid battles with superior forces.

    In more ragged terrain like woods and mountains, where gangs can hide and escape more easily even when not mounted, the gangs are better equipped, making them more worthwhile targets. That is, as long as one takes care of their bowmen by herding the group into more open terrain, which admits a better use of the own cavalry.

    But the pinnacle of the Calradian gangsters are the Nord raiding parties. In fact, they are merely pirates, leaving their ships to plunder the land near the coast. They are well trained and equipped, making them fierce enemies. But the loot from a single crushed group is worth hundreds of Denars.

    "About 40 men in no hurry, no more than two hours ahead.", said my tracker and I congratulated myself again having someone like him in my company. We pursued the group and came closer. When in sight, we noticed, that they changed direction. A little after we saw a caravan appearing at the horizon. The raiders hid behind a narrow hill, preparing an ambush. I ordered my men to quick march towards the caravan, sending Matheld ahead to advice the caravan master to stop until we arrived to support them in the upcoming fight.

    "Pierre ! Glad to see you.". When we arrived I saw it was Ibelin`s caravan.
    "Your officer said, that there are raiders ahead."
    "Yes, about 40 men."
    "40 ! Even if we push them back, there will be a lot of casualties during a melee."
    "So we have to avoid a melee. But our combined cavalry is not strong enough to deal with them on its own. Unless........I think I have a plan. Ferris ! Matheld !"

    Ferris and Ibelin meant, my plan was completely suicidal. Matheld said, it`s worth a song and the result will tell, if it`s about a hero or a fool. When the raiders approached, our infantry and archers formed a line with the cavalry a few yards to their left. I however rode towards the enemy all alone. Well, not exactly towards them. I passed them on their right flank and saw, that my plan worked. When seeing a swadian Lord, the raiders realized, that I`m as worthy a prey as the caravan. So half of their man advanced towards the caravan, while the other half tried to capture me.

    My task was to separate the two groups by avoiding a fight while luring one group away from the other. When there was a clear distance between them, Matheld charged the advancing group with the cavalry. There was a rough parity in numbers, but the raiders didn`t take care of their rear, making them easy targets for my knights. At this moment I disengaged from the second group after having killed two raiders, heading towards our lines.

    When I met the rest of the company, the first raider group was nearly destroyed. When the second group arrived, Ferris joined the battle with the infantry. Being badly outnumbered, the raiders had no real chance and were beaten fast. Shortly after, I saw Matheld coming my way, swinging her sword after having slain the last raider. She was smeared with blood, her eyes glowing from excitement, with a satisfied smile in her face.
    "Ha, we showed them. And you...", she pointed with her sword at me,"...are a worthy captain !"

    That evening our mood was quite relaxed. Yes, we`ve had casualties. A caravan guard got killed and two of my men were wounded, but after all it was a definite victory. Having a meal we recalled the event.

    "Excuse me, Madam, but I was surprised to see a nord woman fighting her own people.", Ibelin said.
    "Hmf, not every drunken sailor with an axe belongs to `my` people, just because he was born in Nordland. These guys were lawless villains and no Swadian, Rhodok or whoever would have a different opinion about them. They were scum and deserved to die in such a way."
    "Nobody deserves to die. A typical, barbaric nord comment.", Jeremus sounded a bit angry saying that.
    "Ah, and what had you done instead ? Read them something out of your brainy books until they got so bored they change their intention to plunder and kill us ?"
    "No, but I wouldn`t have killed those who were already wounded or disarmed."
    "To do what ? Sell them as slaves ? I see, you favor the `civilized` approach."
    "At least I don`t drink out of my enemies` skulls."
    "I feel like I should stock up my personal skull collection right now."
    "Maybe you should stock up on brains instead."
    "Maybe I become a miserable coward like you if I do !"
    "Maybe you stay an armed animal struggling with the concept of walking erect if you don`t !"

    When the quarrel had reached that point, Ibelin and I retired from the scene.
    "Heavens, she can really get mad at someone.", he said.
    "Cute, hm ?", I replied with a smile.
    He looked at me both amused and sceptical.
    "Pierre, I like your style but you have a weird taste. Honestly, don`t you think you should stop her before someone gets hurt ?"
    "As long as she is armed with a spoon only, no. And she is way to disciplined to do something silly. These discussions happen. No wonder, when a student meets a warrior and both are mules."
    "Speaking of mules. On one of them I have a fine Velucan wine. Interested ?"
    "Now you`re talking !"

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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    Day 177 - Kings of the mountains

    To the west, Calradia is bordered by huge mountain ranges, which are the origin of a couple of tribes. In the dark ages, none dared to enter these mountains and the few brave enough either never returned or told confusing stories about giants and monsters.

    During the early Empire, contacts to the inhabitants of the mountains became more frequent, revealing they were neither monsters nor giants, but people hardened by a harsh environment. These tribes, unified by a similar culture and political system, called themselves Rhodoks.

    The Rhodoks were free men, lead by chieftains. These got elected by an assembly of all men fit to bear arms of the respective region they called "cantons". The chieftains were their leaders, but all important decisions concerning the whole society had to be confirmed by the people, thus their political system being something between a republic and a democracy.

    This changed, when the Calradian Emperors began to recruit Rhodoks for their household forces. Thus more and more families came down to the valleys, establishing farms and villages. At first, they tried to maintain their political culture within the Empire and the Emperors granted them certain liberties. But over the time this system eroded.

    Two classes gained more and more power. First the ones hired to serve in the imperial army, climbing through the ranks, becoming Lords themselves, ruling their fiefs. Then the aspiring bourgeosie, consisting of wealthy merchants. The first group was willing to rule as monarchs, the second one was able to buy off any election and willing to cooperate with the first group for mutual benefit.

    So when the Empire collapsed, the Nobility formed a monarchy with a structure similar to the lost Empire, authorized through elections by the urban patricians, keeping up appearances of the old order.

    But the new Kingdom seemed to be doomed, since its forces couldn`t stand the charge of the Khergit and Swadian cavalry. But then, a unique military genius apeared. Witell Grunwalder, coming from the canton of Houry, studied the enemies` warfare and realized, that a massive wall of large shields and long spears was the appropriate counter measure. He reformed the Rhodok army and in a epic battle east of Jelkala a large Swadian force was destroyed.

    Grunwalder`s theories turned out right, although he died during the battle. To honor him, a large castle was build on the battlefield as steady symbol of Rhodok independence and power.

    In our days, the Rhodoks became too powerful. During the current war with the Khergits they managed to gain vast territories in the lower steppe, now controlling the mountain pass leading from Uxkhal to Narra.

    The situation confronted Swadia with several alternatives. Take advantage of the Khergit weakness and advance eastwards thus getting stronger, weaken the Khergit and let the Rhodok gain power. Or attack the Rhodok, trying to push them out of Khergit territory, maintaining a balance of power between the three realms. Or simply do nothing at all and see what`s happening.

    Anyway, suddenly rumors spread about several raided caravans near the Rhodok-Swadian border. It`s not exactly clear who were the culprits. Maybe bandits, maybe Lords acting on royal command or their own. Be it as it may, King Harlaus used it as an opportunity to declare war on the Rhodok kingdom. The Lords and their armies assembled at Praven and now far more than 1.000 men are marching towards the Rhodok territory.

    Standing on a hill, Ferris and I watched the spectacle of a dozen passing warbands. At the top the Lords accompanied by the cavalry, then the infantry and archers, finally the baggage train with wifes, children, merchants, whores, sutlers, cooks and cattle.

    "Impressive, isn`t it ?", I asked him.
    "On the first sight yes.", he replied.
    "And on the second ?"
    "Just take a closer look at the army."

    I did. In that moment, Lord Grainwad`s company, one of the larger parties, passed by. The cavalry was formidable and quite numerous. Then the infantry...

    I started to understand Ferris` point and when I saw the next two companies I began to worry.

    "Do you think it`s cause for headaches ?"
    "Well, Pierre, I think that 6 out of 10 men infantry have ranged weapons. Another 2 are comletely untrained and green. One man each being light and heavy infantry. So including the cavalry only one quarter of our force has a namable combat value when it comes to a melee."
    "Suggestions ?"
    "I don`t mind about field battles. We have enough cavalry to deal with any enemy at this moment and all these archers will make a lot of hits. But, for heavens sake, keep us out of sieges. As soon, as the few men useful for close combat find themselves in the midst of all these recruits and archers, they are dead meat."

    Matheld appeared, looking grim.
    "Captain, have you seen this so-called army ?"
    "Yes, and I`ve decided to keep us out of sieges as long as possible."
    "That`s a relief", she said with a smile.

    Ferris bit his tongue to avoid laughter.

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:51.

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    Day 192 - Enemies all around

    Back in Praven. A rainy day, matching to the mood of my men. All were tired, no, rather burned out. The last two weeks had been demanding and all had paid their dues. Even Matheld seemed to be out of smart remarks. I found her sitting at the fireplace, staring into the flames.
    "How are you ?"
    "Tired", she said, "but not as tired as you."
    "Always the warrior queen, hm ?", I made a brief pause,
    "Have you seen Ferris somewhere ?"
    "No, not since we came here".

    She turned to me and I could see some empathy in her eyes.
    "Don`t worry too much. He`ll get over it and return as soon as he had enough time for himself. Yes, something went wrong, but I don`t think he`ll quit.", she said.
    "And everything started so fine..."

    (14 days before. The woods near Jelkala)

    "With all due respect, Sir, but what exactly are we doing here ?", Baldur asked. Ferris approached from behind.
    "We obey the King`s command and you`ll stay here until he arrives to thank you for your exemplary commitment.". We all laughed.
    "But honestly, Sir, he is right. Our task is fulfilled and we should return to the army."

    I agreed. Soon after the army left Praven the King asked me to ride ahead with my company and scout the area between Grunwalder Castle and Jelkala. After having spent some time there without finding something of interest, we were on our way to join the main force now. Near Grunwalder Castle we saw a broad track made by the army. But strangely it didn`t lead to the Castle but straight southward. Following this trail and reaching the steppe, we realized, what our next target would be: Distar Castle !

    Reminding Ferris` words I slowed down our pace, what proved to be a good idea. When we arrived, the siege had already begun and a first assault had been repulsed at high costs.

    When reporting back to the King, he informed me about the situation.
    "More than 100 men killed or wounded so far.", he said and explained, "We don`t know how many defenders are left, but probably not more than 60 men. And it`s good to see you around again because I have a new task for you. I want you to lead the final assault."
    `Darn`, I thought.
    "My pleasure, Sir.", I said.

    I stepped out of the King`s tent, looking at the castle. The walls were intact except on the southern side. In front of this section was a narrow ramp. No wonder the casualties had been so high, since no two men could fight at the same time, facing a superior number of defenders. And tomorrow I shall sacrifice my men up there ? But maybe, just maybe, I don`t have to.

    The enemy guards were surprised and suspicious, when two people with a white flag appeared at the gates, asking to meet the Commander for a talk. He agreed. Until that moment, I had heard stories about Lord Gerluchs. But now I understood, why he is a living legend. About a foot larger than most people, with tanned brown skin and a athletic body he`s an impressive sight.
    He talked to me ignoring Matheld to my left:

    "A white flag ? You want to surrender ? I regret having to deny your offer, but I can`t feed such a large number of prisoners.", he said.
    "A good joke. I don`t think your men are in the mood for it, facing certain death before the sun sets. But they don`t have to die, if you are willing to hand over this stronghold to us without a fight."
    "And if not ?"
    "Your men`s fate is sealed."
    "So be it. You think we are scared ? You should be. Look around. You are far away from home in a hostile country. Each man you loose leaves you weaker in a land filled with enemies. Maybe my men will have to give their lifes today, but you will have to pay dearly for such a hollow victory. And I shall surrender ? Ha !"

    He turned around and walked back inside.
    "Stubborn bastard.", I cursed when returning to the camp.
    "Or a damned hero.", Matheld replied. "Nobody gets famous for taking the path of least resistance. And after all he is right. Harlaus must have been insane when attacking a castle that far away from the next supply base. We must be crazy to take part in this campaign. And now our men have to pay for his arrogance and our blind obedience."

    Late morning. After forming a heavy company we advanced at double speed towards the castle. On the walls we saw the enemies, guarding the breach, the sun reflecting on their armor. When entering firing range, the enemy archers began to shoot at us. But we still marched forward. I ordered our men to stop a few yards in front and left of the ramp. Our archers instantaneously began to fill the air with bolts while the infantry covered the whole line with their shields.

    On the wall, the first bodies fell down. The enemy archers tried to retaliate, but they were too few. Over the course of time, the desparation of the defenders grew. Men were dying, leaving survivors behind as well unable to fight us as to seek cover without leaving the breach unguarded. Finally they decided to attack. They ran down the ramp and clashed with our men at the bottom of it. But now they were the ones who couldn`t unfold their remaining forces. The few men able to use thir weapons were outnumbered. The men behind at the mercy of our archers. Now courage born of desperation fought against confidence of victory. Men shouting, swords clashing, shields cracking, bodies falling. Blood. Sweat. Tears. And suddenly...............silence.

    It took some time before we realized, that no enemy was left. I slowly advanced the ramp upwards, followed by some infantrymen. Cautiously we climbed onto the wall. Around us dead soldiers and dropped weapons. No living soul around. I turned around, shouting to the men below: "It`s over !"
    They answered with frenetic cheers.

    More men came up the ramp to secure the castle and open the gates. I leaned against the battlement to take a deep breath.
    "That was a brilliant achievement, Sir !", Lord Tredian said when he arrived.
    "Thank you, Sir. I hope the men think so too."
    "They better should, because as far as I`ve seen it, only five of them got killed."
    `Five`, I thought, `maybe this is a real victory.`
    "And Lord Gerluchs ?"
    "Probably escaped through a secret passage. But don`t be disappointed. He`ll raise another army and you`ll meet him again on the battlefield. But for today, the fighting is over."

    Suddenly we noticed, that many men hurried to the northern wall, staring at something that made them afraid. When we arrived, we saw the cause. A giant dust cloud, covering nearly the complete horizon......and it came closer.

    Lord Tredian spitted out.
    "Well, maybe I was a little hasty."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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    Infinity, That`s what comes to mind when marching through the steppe, this endless grass ocean bordered by the horizon and sky only. But this area in the south of Calradia is merely a small part of the greater steppe further to the east.

    Although it looks tranquil and inviting, living in the steppe is demanding. The long winters are harsh, with a strong cold wind blowing each and every day over the land that provides no shelter. Water is rare. The soil is completely useless as farmland, so stock breeding is the only possible form of agriculture. Thus, the steppe supports life, if one is willing to move around with the herds from one pasture to the next.

    Nobody knows, if man or horses first entered the steppe, but they proved to be a perfect match. Being dependent on the horses to maintain their nomadic lifestyle, the steppe nomads became natural born riders, able to move tremendous distances with their herds of horses and sheep, like fleets of humans and animals sailing on the endless grass sea.

    Similar to the animals, the people are organized into "herds", with the basic unit being the family. Several families give a clan and a couple of clans result in a tribe. Devotion and loyalty to the tribe is immense and a matter of honor for every man. Nothing is so dangerous like a quarrel between tribes. With the blood feud being a common thing, a single forced death can lead to a long series of mutual murders. Nevertheless, some tribes regard themselves as members of a common nation they call Khergit.

    Being nomads, the first Khergit appeared in the calradian steppe a long time ago while moving around. To that time, this part of the steppe has been controlled by the Vaegir, what means, that they maintained some small outposts. Since the steppe was uninhabited apart from that, the Khergit`s appearance was no cause for problems since they came and left again with the seasons to let their herds graze and trade a little bit.

    The Calradian Emperors, in their effort to integrate all Calradian tribes into their empire (and by doing so, control them), managed to hire some Khergits as light cavalry and scouts for their army. So some Khergit families and clans changed their lifestyle over the years to be more semi-nomadic or even settled. But they were not that numerous, so they couldn`t establish settlements beyond a few villages.

    That changed a little more than 50 years ago. The Khergit homeland in the greater steppe got overrun by another nomadic nation and the remainders of all Khergit tribes pushed into Calradia not just to use land, but to seize it and make it their new homeland. They conquered the Vaegir castles and adopted the lifestyle of the resident Khergits, now being able to found a couple of cities. Over the next decades they consolidated their power, fighting off any aggressor with their tactic of wearing down an enemy over the distance with their horse archers and avoiding battles with heavy armored units.

    Todays Khergits are not that different from the other Calradian tribes. They are still magnificent riders, but decades of a settled lifestyle have changed their mentality. Most Khergit say, that this change was necessary to establish a solid economic power. But the traditionalists think that, in the long term, the Khergit will perish since they have lost their way.

    Right now, their way lead them to us. A large army lead by Sanjar Khan himself, recaptured Unuzdaq Castle from the Rhodoks and was on it`s way to siege Distar Castle, being quite surprised to see the job done by us. A meeting was held by Harlaus and Sanjar and rumor has it, that the Khan expressed to be `pleased` to see us help `liberating` Khergit territory. But since he had no need for another enemy, he had to accept the fact of a Swadian Castle in the lower steppe. Angry, he and his army left heading east. Leaving a garrison behind, our army departed northward.

    Advancing to the north, my company marched in a column with the men of Lord Delinard and Lord Clais, when a scout appeared and reported, that a Rhodok force was coming our way. After a brief council we decided to meet them in battle, although the terrain wasn`t ideal for our cavalry. Our first mistake that day.

    After having formed a line we saw the Rhodoks approaching. They must have had about 200 men, so there was a parity between the two forces. Usually we would have to form a line of infantry and archers, flank the enemy with the cavalry, attacking them both from the front and behind, forcing the Rhodok spearwall to break up. But the second mistake that day was, that Delinard and Clais simply charged with all they had towards the Rhodok line.

    "Darn ! They must be out of their mind. Ferris ! Take our men and build a line on top of that hill over there. I`ll advance and see how things are going."
    "Yes, Sir, but be careful. I don`t want to see a spear going through your chest."

    At first it went well. The cavalry charged through the Rhodok line, causing some disorder and make a few kills. But after the first shock, they reestablished their line. Our cavalry, having lost momentum, began to be easy targets for the spearmen. Meanwhile our infantry appeared, trying to crush the enemy wall. But there were too few heavy infantrymen.

    In the meantime I was in the Rhodok rear, thinning out the enemy archers, taking advantage of the fact, that they stood in a separate line behind the spearmen. Thus being occupied with the task of reducing their numers I also had to monitor the course of the battle. And it looked grim. With the cavalry beaten and the infantry cut to pieces, the rest began to escape, pursued by the Rhodok.

    I returned to my company, where the archers had already begun to shoot. But they couldn`t deliver enough damage to make the Rhodok retreat. Fortunately, while pursuing our fleeing men and forced to march uphill, the Rhodok no longer were a compact unit. I took the cavalry, lead it to the enemy flank and on a signal we and the infantry charged. Being attacked from two sides, the Rhodok had no chance but it took a bloody melee to defeat them.

    "Our casualties ?"
    "Four killed and six wounded, Sir.", Jeremus answered and added: "All in all we should count ourselves lucky after having acted so stupid."
    I agreed to his point and resolved to take Delinard and Clais to task.
    "Anyway we should return home, Sir."
    "Do you think we are running out of luck ?". A tired smile.
    "No, Sir, but out of supplies."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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    "Such a waste", Matheld said.
    "Better they are wasted than we."
    The Rhodoks, eager to either destroy us or push us out of their territory, attacked us as often as possible. But their efforts became more and more uncoordinated, seeking battles even on plain terrain, being ideal for our cavalry. And now, another 100 men laid slain on the battlefield.

    But I realized, that Lord Gerluchs was kind of right. We were surrounded by enemies. The citizens were uncooperative, the warbands involved us in combats day and night. We had no rest and no reinforcements, but a lot of killed and wounded. Still our force was very powerful, being a curse and blessing in one. Able to repulse any attack so far, our stock of rations was nearly depleted. So we faced two possibilities: Cut the rations and demoralize our men midst in a hostile country or get new supplies real soon. We choose the latter.

    The next village was Serindiar. Although it looked not really poor, the Elder made lots of elusions for not selling us something. He said, that the last harvest had been bad, that the Lord took most of the surplus, that they had left bare the necessities to get over the winter. I replied that his people looked quite well-fed for being in such dire straits and that, if they cooperate, I`ll pay extra for anything they sell us. He meant, that he don`t want to and the generally accepted laws of nations would condemn us if we made him to. I told him, that only equals can appeal to the laws and they were too weak compared to our force to do so. He said, that our presence has been noticed and that the local Lords will come to defend them soon. I answered that he acted silly when hoping for help that might come someday when already staring at blank swords.

    After that I confronted him with the only choice he had left. Either to be my friend or my enemy. He said, that he wanted to be my enemy then. I ordered my men to take everything of value from them but leave enough food behind to let the peasants survive. All men obeyed my order..........except one.

    "Can you please explain to me what happened today ?", Ferris said that evening, his face red with anger.
    "I supplied my men."
    "By plundering innocent peasants ?"
    "What had been the alternative ? Travel around with hungry men ready for mutiny ? I had to act that way to maintain order. Better they get plundered by us than killed by a group of deserters."
    "Oh, yes, sure. All we did was in their best interest. You see that lake ? They say that beneath it is a way to the underworld and I bet the path down there is paved with valid reasons. Don`t you get what I`m saying ? I saw my men acting like a bunch of brigands today !"
    "Your men ? I thought, this is my company !"
    "Then act like a captain, not like a bandit king ! Or is that what you`ve learned when being forced out of your home ? Retaliate at all costs and torture the weak ?"
    "If you are not comfortable here anymore and prefer an innocent lamb to lead you through the war maybe you should change to a different company !"
    He looked at me both angry and disappointed.
    "Maybe I should.", he said when leaving.

    The campaign continued and from a certain point of view all went well. More battles won, Almerra Castle conquered. But something had changed. Ferris remained my most dependable man, but the intimacy was gone. Matheld noticed it and tried to fill the gap by being my officer and confidant. As on this evening in front of the fireplace in a tavern in Praven.

    "He will come back. I know you regard him as a friend and that you appreciate and need his advice. And I think he knows that too. You had to make a decision and considering the circumstances your options were limited. He will come to the same conclusion when he realizes, that one can`t go to war and keep his hands all clean."
    "You made a point. So did he that evening. You are saying that war is a bloody mess and that one can`t be picky when the times are rough. May be you are right. Maybe it`s just a petty excuse to justify our misdeeds."
    "If you think so, the past still can`t be changed. But you should think ahead the next time so nobody gets in trouble."

    I knew that, at the bottom of her nordic heart, she didn`t agree with (or even fully understood) my scruples. But she tried to spent some comfort which I really needed at that moment.
    "I appreciate your advice too.", I said and, after a pause: "And your company."
    "I know..."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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    Day 217 - A life less stressful

    Most people think that a noble`s life is all about fame, wealth, abundance and idleness. In fact, it`s not. Of course one has not to work on the field, owning villages or a castle. Earning money is not much of a problem with the privilege to raise taxes. And one has the possibility to spend time with doing nothing.

    But the other side of the coin is, that one has to work on one`s weapons skills by constant training and drill. The raised taxes must be spent for recruitment and maintenance of troops or improving infrastructures. And the leisure time is more of a curse, because life can be incredibly dull with nothing to do and no entertainment around.

    I think that`s the reason why nobles can be found on the journey most of the time, travelling from one village to the other, because these are the places to get new recruits, supplies and taxes. And while riding around one gets to have some combats with bandits, increasing both the own and the troops skills. So one could say, that a noble has got to love a traveller`s life, otherwise it won`t work.

    After a short rest in Praven I began to move around again too. But after the last war campaign I thought, it would be better to deal with more peaceful tasks. First it went fine, seeing that my men got more relaxed. But when escorting the sixth caravan within two weeks at an annoying slow speed with nothing to happen from dawn to dusk, I noticed, that their tranquility turned to boredom.

    So, with a large surplus of energy to spend, we reached Tihr. Tihr is a marvel and I think that those, who never came here, wasted their lives. Mostly populated by Nords, it`s still a small universe within a city wall due to it`s harbor, which happened to be the largest at the Calradian coast. A harbor means life. People from whole Calradia, the rest of the continent and even overseas meet here. People with different cultures, languages, colours of skin. A harbor means prosperity. Merchants from the whole world come here to trade their goods. And this trade can be taxed, making the Lord of Tihr one of the wealthiest men in Calradia. And a harbor means exchange. Exchange of people, goods, news, ideas. Thus, Tihr is a fascinating place to be, since it`s always bustling with activity.

    Even more the day we arrived. The streets were crowded, making it hard to get forward.
    "Hey, pal, what`s going on here ?", I asked a man passing by.
    "Don`t you know ? There is a tournament being held this afternoon."
    I looked at Matheld and I guess we had the same thought.
    "Ready for a little fight ?", I asked.
    "Does my horse has an arse ?", she answered.

    Tournaments are large events and extremely popular among the officials, due to their immense importance for the society. Ordinary people can watch a melee with excitement instead of fear. Warriors can gain money and prestige while showing their skills without having to risk their lives. The tavernkeepers and merchants benefit from all the visitors. And everyone gets entertained.

    Tournament rules are the same in whole Calradia, but the weaponry differs according to the local military culture. In Narra, all combatants are mounted and often equipped with bows or javelins. In Rivacheg, most weapon types are used, both mounted and unmounted. Here in Tihr, being in Nord territory, all melees are on foot, using axes or bows. The armament and team membership being determined by drawing lots at the start of each round.

    In round one I had as well a bow as luck, since the two opposing teams fought each other, giving me the opportunity to knock down opponents from the distance. In round two I had an axe, advancing with the rest of the team, and with skill and luck we won. In round three, Matheld and I were in the same team, both with axes. She charged towards the other team all alone. I followed, trying to guard her back. But she already had knocked one down.

    "Ha ! Take this, you rotten piece of moldy...umpf"
    Unaware of a man to her left she got a blow, cracking her shield and sending her to the ground half dazed. Now I was outnumbered and the next thing I remember was when I woke up with my face in the dirt.

    "Oh boy, that was fun !", she said afterward and I could see in her eyes that she meant it.
    "And wearing. I`m all hungry. Let`s get something to eat."

    We found a tavern near the harbor and had some fish, while she was going into raptures about the fight.
    "...and it was great showing skill against cunning opponents, but most of them were rubbish and....hey ! Are you listening ?"
    "Of course. Skills and rubbish, Lady `rotten piece of moldy umpf`. It was quite funny and..."
    "You remember I have my sword back, yes ?"
    "...and still it was amazing to see you bearing defeat with such dignity."
    She made a gesture.
    "Ah, you swadian flatterer."

    Two men obviously coming from overseas came to our table, asking if they could take seat since all other seats were occupied.
    "Of course. Sit down.", I said.
    "Thank you. We`ve been busy all day and are extremely hungry."
    "Beg your pardon, but it seems that you are from a distant land. Where are you from ?"
    "Osnamia. Our master lead us here and now we are waiting for him to return from his journey through Calradia."
    "So your master is a merchant ? Or a Lord from your country ?"
    "No, he is a travelling scholar. He came here to learn something about the land and the inhabitants."
    "Sounds interesting. Where can I meet your master."
    "He should be in a city called Rivacheg now."

    I looked at Matheld.
    "Interested in a journey ?"
    "To the Rock of Rivacheg ?", she said with a smile, "Every Nord wants to get there. Sure."

    I turned to the strangers again.
    "What is your master`s name."
    "Vamagyn. Uzara Vamagyn."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:52.

  16. #16
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    Day 220 - The world we live in

    Some people say, that the Vaegir`s origin is uncertain, but I know better. Beyond the mountains, to the northeast of my former home, live a couple of tribes who can be described as the Vaegir`s ancestors and distant cousins. Really uncertain is the reason, why so many of them came to Calradia, but they were so numerous, that soon the whole east of the land from the coast to the steppe was under their control. But it showed, that they had overstretched their forces.

    The problem was, that they controlled vast territories who were no gain from an economic point of view. The mainland, being a plateau, is covered with snow most of the year. The only ressources there are fur and ore. Even worse the steppe, which can be used for stock breeding only. But the Vaegirs have never been much of nomads or breeders and too few of them lived in the steppe. So the only region with decent farmland to feed the people was to the north, around the cities of Rivacheg and Reyvadin. Thus, the Vaegir wasted lots of ressources securing territories not worth it. And eventually they had to pay for it.

    The first threat was the landfall of the Nords. After securing the coastline, the Nords marched towards the Vaegir. But the defence position at Rivacheg, consisting of an extremely strong fortress and hundreds of formidable archers, stopped their advance. Thus was the situation until the Khergits pushed into the steppe, defeating the weak Vaegir garrisons in no time.

    Being forced to protect the homeland, the Vaegir strengthened their defence and uptil now they managed to defend Rivacheg in the north and the mountain passes to the south. Some say, they made it with courage. Some say, it was sheer luck. And some say, their skills saved them.

    I agree with the third theory, because their skills (or better: knowledge) is superior to the other Calradian nations, since they maintain the finest universities and libraries in the land. Vaegir lawyers, medics, philosophers and historians are famous beyond the Calradian borders. So it was no wonder, that a foreign scholar was attracted by the university of Rivacheg. At least, that`s what we thought.

    `Drushbar`, the sign over the entrance said.
    "Are you sure we`ll find him here ?", Matheld asked.
    "That`s what they said."
    We stood in front of a middle class tavern at the main street of Rivacheg. At the university they told us, that Vamagyn spent most of the day here instead at the university. It was still early afternoon, and only a few guests were hanging around. Vamagyn could easily be found, since he was the only one reading a book (besides his brown skin and exotic and wide clothes).

    "Master Vamagyn ?", I asked.
    "I prefer to be adressed as Vamagyn only. Or, better, simply as Uzara." How may I help you ?"
    "I am Pierre de Courtenay. I met your companions at Tihr and when I heard, that a scholar from a distant land took the trouble of travelling here just to learn something about us I became curious."
    "Just because I seek answers to questions of interest ? So do you, otherwise you wouldn`t be here. But how come you ask me in a city full of scholars and students ?"
    "Maybe because you are an outsider and not familiar with the local conditions."
    He laughed.
    "`What do the Rhodok know about the mountains since they live in them`, as you say here. A good reason. But I don`t think you want to learn something about mountains."
    "Indeed. Uzara, you will have noticed, that this land is divided into five factions who are struggling for supremacy. This goes on and on for centuries now and no end is in sight. Sometimes it seems, that this land is cursed. Is there no hope for peace ?"

    After a short pause he said:
    "Look at this book. Written by Kamor y Ayyam, a great poet and thinker who strongly believed in individual liberty and the freedom to decide. Now listen to this:
    `This all is a chessboard of days and nights
    on which destiny plays with human pieces
    moving them around, check and mate them
    and finally putting them back to the box`
    Nice, hm ?"
    "One moment. You said, the author believed in the freedom to decide, but in his poem it seems, that all our lives are determined by the destiny until we die. How does it match ?"

    "Hm. Do you agree, that all men are equal in terms of their needs ? I mean, that they need to eat, sleep, rest and so on ?"
    "And would you also agree that every human strives to improve his situation ? I mean, better food and housing or more money ?"
    "But as we all can see, some people succeed in their efforts and some not. How come ?"
    "Maybe the latter are not courageous or intelligent enough."
    "Or maybe they were born in such wretched conditions, that change is nearly impossible. Or the available ressources are not sufficient for everyone. Be it as it may. But in any case a competition between all human beings start, and only those ambitious, courageous, intelligent, lucky or reckless enough will be successful."

    "But what`s all this this got to do with the contrast between destiny and free decision ?"
    "A lot. Considering that people will always have to fulfill their needs and that they all act in a certain and more or less corresponding way to improve their situation, thus affecting the lives of others while competing with them, one could say, that most of the future is already written, since we are just following rules that can`t be changed."
    "But what about individuality ?"
    "We all compete. But it`s the decision of every men, up to which point he wants to do this by defining personal goals one wants to achieve and also the methods he wants to use. Are you seeking a decent life and humanity ? Or do you seek power by any means necessary ? Your choice."

    "That doesn`t explain the endless wars."
    "It does. Nations, as individuals, compete for power and ressources and war is the weapon of choice to do this. But since all nations strive for supremacy and all try to extend their influence while limiting the other`s, the result is not supremacy of one nation but a balance of power between five of them. You see ? All the kings and lords act to gain more power, but all their actions just secure the current situation. Thus, individual actions lead to a destiny of eternal war."
    "As you describe it one could think it`s part of a design."

    He hesitated a moment and said:
    "You mean, that a higher being created this world and somehow regulated it and it`s inhabitants in a way, that the balance of power will be maintained because it is the design and it`s removal would destroy the creation ? Interesting thought."
    "A scary thought."
    "Let`s say: unusual. And here is another one. Say, there are several higher beings and each one created a world, so several `Calradia` exist at the same time. One could be an island, another situated a hundred years in the future or more than a thousand years in the past. Or say, that nothing else than Calradia does exist in this world, and all the other foreign countries like Geroia are fake and behind the mountains and seas is nothing but black emptiness."
    "But if that was true, you wouldn`t exist", Matheld meant.
    "Unless another higher being altered the initial creation and added an individual named Uzara Vamagyn to it."
    "Ehm....", Matheld and I said simultaneously.

    Back on the street, we were quite irritated. Uzara`s chain of thoughts had become more and more complex and frightening. Fortunately we got distracted immediately by a herald adressing the people.
    "Citizens of Rivacheg ! Another war has come to Calradia."

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:52.

  17. #17
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    Day 257 - Home defence

    In retrospect it seems that the events of the last month prove Uzara`s point. The Khergit Khanat, anxious of the growing Swadian power, declared war on us. A new campaign started, but this time our force was less impressive due to the losses of the last weeks. With about 500 men we left Praven. The next days saw us fighting and we lost many good men due to the strong Khergit cavalry. But despite our horrible casualties we managed to defeat two Khergit armies and conquer Unuzdaq Castle. On the other hand, all gains made in the last campaign were lost.

    Once again the war was a terrible burden for my men. But this time we were better provided with supplies so we didn`t had to bother the civil population. We didn`t even took `tolls` from enemy caravans. Thus, our booty was less rich, but somehow the whole company took pride in the fact, that our warfare was still bloody but not inhuman. Ferris noticed it and our relations began to normalize slowly.
    `At least one positive result` I thought.

    Shortly after the campaign was over and the Lords had parted company, news spread, that the Khergit main force was marching towards Rindyar Castle after having conquered Ismirala Castle. Rindyar Castle ! If it`s lost, Chide is too. We immediately broke up camp and headed toward Rindyar Castle. Coming closer we noticed that there were more and more crows in the air and we feared to arrive too late. But when we saw the Castle, we were relieved. Kind of.

    Over the Castle the banner of Lord Rafard could be seen. Also trails of smoke, indicating that some burning arrows had found targets. Then the ramp at the eastern wall. Finally, in some distance, the large Khergit camp. But there was something strange about it. Little motion and just a few campfires could be seen inside of it. As we came closer we realized why. Obviously there had been no ceasefire to bury the dead and so we saw dozens, hundreds of dead bodies covering the ground around the ramp. There must have been several assaults and all had been repulsed. And now all these brave men were a meal for the crows and rats. And I guessed, they would get a dessert the next day.

    We sneaked to the castle gate in the dark. It got opened by the garrison commander himself.
    "Glad to see you, Sir. As you can see, we have some problems here."
    "Is Lord Rafard here ?"
    "No, he left two weeks ago. We sent a messenger after him but I don`t know if he reached him."
    "And the situation ?"
    "As they arrived, they must have been at least 400 men, Sir. But we managed to decrease their numbers a little bit." He pointed toward the breach with his eyes.
    "I saw it. And tomorrow we`ll finish them off.", I added.

    The next morning. I met the commander near the breach.
    "Form your men, captain. I think the Khergit will show up soon."
    "All my men are here, Sir."
    I looked around.
    "There are just seven men !"
    "I said I`m glad to see you, Sir."

    Including my men, we were just 40 defenders. There was little to do besides positioning the infantry at the breach and the archers to the left and right. And to wait. I know it couldn`t have been more than a hour but it was the longest hour in my life, thinking over and over about how few we were and how many they would lead against us. Finally they came.
    "Look at it, Pierre. I think we`ll survive this.", Matheld meant.

    The captain hadn`t bragged when telling us about the damage he and his men had dealt to the enemy. There were just about 50 men approaching the ramp.
    "Shoot !", I shouted, and a round of bolts was sent towards the enemy.

    They advanced towards us, knowing that every second of hesitation would mean instant death. But although they ran as fast they could, four men were down before they reached the ramp. As soon they ascended it, my sergeants build a spear wall, causing severe damage to the enemies in the lead while the archers kept battering the ones behind.

    That day it was the first time since months I used my crossbow. It took some time to aim before I pulled the trigger. A hit ! A lightly armored man got hit in the hip. He wasn`t dead, but the momentum of the bolt pushed him against the men behind him. In the next moment he lost the balance and fell down the ramp. On his way down I heard him scream with fear and pain.

    Someone pushed me.
    "Don`t dream ! Shoot !", the man to my right said.
    But it wasn`t necessary anymore. The few Khergits left were no match for my infantry and soon all of them were dead or severely wounded.

    Suddenly someone shouted: "More Khergits are coming !"
    We saw a large company approaching. But when we recognized the banner, a sigh of relief went through our line. This place was secured. And Chide too.

    "Open the gates for Lord Rafard !"

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
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  18. #18
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    Day 268 - Lots of surprises

    Chide. After all this fighting and with the winter being almost there I decided to end the campaign for this year. We all needed rest and what better place to seek that than home. I was pleased to see the mill and school being build and the foundations for a manor being laid, hoping to end the poverty in this village within the next year. Even better was, that the people seemed to get my point, showing confidence toward my actions.

    Speaking of actions. I really have no idea how she made it, but somehow Matheld managed to learn, that today was my birthday. So when the Elder invited me to a feast this evening, I thought it`s about some traditional rural celebration. That changed, when Matheld climbed on a table.

    "Comrades, men and women ! We have come together tonight for a certain reason."
    "To get drunk and forget about life as soon as possible ?", someone said from behind, followed by general laughter.
    "Also. But first because on this day a man was born, who proved to be a courageous man, able captain and kind Lord. Hail to the Chief !"
    "Hail to the Chief !", everyone repeated, taking a drink.
    "And now it`s time to get drunk.", Matheld said, jumping off the table. Laughter again.

    The next hour I spent with receiving congratulations and small presents, talking with the people about their daily affairs and promising to attend the marriage of the Elder`s oldest daughter next month.

    Finally an envoy from Lord Rafard appeared with a special gift, a well-balanced bastard-sword.
    "My Lord says, that this sword shall honor your deeds as well as his friendship to you."
    "Please thank him for it and assure him, that he can always count on my service if he needs it."
    This sword was indeed a token of goodwill. Ever since King Harlaus granted me Chide as fief, Lord Rafard had been grunpy, because before then it belonged to his fief. But the defence of his castle must have changed his opinion and maybe I`ve gained a new friend.

    An old friend stepped up to me.
    "A nice sword. I hope you`ll use it wisely.", Ferris said.
    "If not, I hope you`ll be there to tell me so."
    "I`ll do. And I hope you will listen."
    "From now on I`ll always listen before I do or say something I will or should regret the next moment."
    He gave me a hug and I knew that tonight we finally saved our friendship. So far, the evening was perfect, but the biggest surprises were still imminent.

    "Hey, old man ! Is there a place left for a thirsty stranger ?"
    "Ibelin ! Now the day is perfect. How come you are here ?"
    "Matheld wrote I should show up to have some Ale. And added that, if I don`t, I will gain the experience of having Ale in my skull without enjoying it. In short, she was lovely as usual.". We laughed.

    The feast continued and it was fine to see everyone enjoying themselves. Some peasants were making music, some of my men and young farm girls were dancing to it while other men who already drunk too much sat in a corner, singing saucy songs.

    Later that evening, Ibelin, Ferris and I sat at a table.
    "Ibelin, thanks for this superb wine. It will shorten some winter days for sure."
    "You`re welcome. But, Pierre, there is another thing I have to hand over.", he said and I heard that the tone of his voice became incertain.
    "Shortly before I came here, a stranger in Khudan gave me a letter for you. He said, it is important and that you are waiting for it."

    He gave me the letter. I began to read:

    `Greetings, Lord de Courtenay,

    as anyone can see, you made it well for yourself. A title, a company, a fief. Most people would kill for such a life. Well, you did. But time passes quickly and you won`t be young and energetic enough for really great deeds forever. That raises the question: Is it enough ? Do you take comfort in being a minor noble or are you ready to kill some more people and become the most powerful Lord in your realm next to the Ruler ? I`ll find out next spring. See you.


    "Bad news ?", Ferris asked.
    "Antor.", I replied
    "Real bad news then !"
    For a few moments we looked at each other.

    "Ha ! Typical for you. Always in a joking mood when wading knee-deep through Khergit blood. But as soon it`s time to party, you are making a face as being on a funeral.", Matheld appeared and I saw her eyes were already glazed from the Ale.
    "Maybe you should cheer us up."
    "Maybe I will.". She gave me a smile.

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:52.

  19. #19
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    Day 269 - Tales from beyond the sea

    Cold, fresh air. It was early morning and still dark when I got up. But most peasants were already awake to look after the cattle. Finally it dawned. Although winter hadn`t begun, there had been frost the last night and now the meadows were white and the ice crystals reflected the first beams of sunlight. I could see the nearby mountains, the summits covered with snow. Soon there will be some feet of fresh snow here too. I went back inside to read a bit at the fire.

    "I think you spend too much time with Jeremus.", Matheld entered the room and came slowly to the fire.
    "He`s innocent. I`ve always been a reader. Unfortunately I have no time for it unless we rest somewhere."
    "And what are you reading now ?"
    "A history of the deeds of Alixenus the Great, an ancient warlord, his campaigns and tactics and..."
    "You read such a story ?"
    "Ehm, what`s wrong with that ? Don`t Nords tell stories too ?"
    "Yes, and that`s the point. A good story has to be told, not read."
    I put away the book.
    "Sounds fine. So tell me a nord story."
    "Even better. I`ll tell you the Nord`s story."

    "They say that, before the world existed, there was a huge battle between a god and a monster. The monster got slain and cut in half. The lower half became the earth, the upper one the sky above. The monster`s tears became the sea and it`s innards dry land. Nordland !

    You should see Nordland, Pierre. When approaching from the west by ship, you see a rough coast with huge fiords reaching miles into the land, flanked by cliffs that reach hundreds of feet straight upward. When moving away from the coast, you are on a vast plateau, consisting of bare rock, moss and grass. Further to the east, with the terrain descending, you get into a single infinite wood. Finally the whole country is littered with hundreds of small lakes and ponds.

    But despite it`s immense beauty, it is a rough country to live in. Farmland is rare, the summers short and the winters long, dark and extremely harsh. Thus, most Nord live along the coastline, living from fishing, breeding sheep and some farming. But we managed to build up a prosperous economy by trading mostly fish and fur. Eventually that proved to raise the issue of overpopulation and two solutions for it. First the different Lords, who we call Thanes, tried to gain as much farmland and fishing grounds as possible. The result was a constant struggle for ressources with coalitions changing from day to day. It stayed that way, until Harald Hårfagre..."

    "Harald what ?"
    "Harald Beauhair, a Thane from the western isles, was a mighty warlord and a very good-looking man. He let the men scream from fear, the women from pleasure. He was the first one to unite most of Nordland under one banner. But his charme and good looks finally were curses, because when he died, there were dozens of legitimate sons and a long and bloody succession war began.

    The civil war raged for years and it was Eirik Blodøks, that means Bloodaxe, who succeeded in thinning out his rivals."
    "I guess he is called Bloodaxe because his brothers..."
    "Exactly. But Eiriks youngest brother, Håkon the Good, defeated him in an epic battle and most of Nordland was united again. Since then, Nordland is caught in a cycle of unity and civil war. But even in times of peace, the kingship is not that strong and the Thanes are rather independent.

    Some of them thought, that war isn`t the best choice compared to migration. Over the centuries thousands of Nord left their homes to become either colonists or conquerors. And some Thanes decided to become rulers of the sea, collecting `tolls` from passing merchants who were willing to pay or to ransack those who not.

    That was, when the Calradian Emperors decided to grant the Nord some land near the coast. Neither side was strong enough to attack the other`s homeland, but the Emperors were eager to secure the shipping routes to realms overseas. Thus they invited Nord to receive some land as fiefs. Their intention was, that the Calradian Nord would defend the coast against pirates (or better, their countrymen) and crew their fleets with experienced sailors.

    But one of the first warlords who arrived was Gundig Hairy-Breeks. Gundig considered the Emperor`s offer as invitation to conquer whole Calradia. After having arranged conditions in his fief near Wercheg, he raised an army and marched towards the Vaegir. But near Rivacheg he was beaten and killed. Nevertheless more Nord came to settle here and now we have an independent Kingdom and there is no doubt that one day whole Calradia will bow before us."

    I applauded when she reached the end of the story.
    "You are right. Stories should be told. May I hear another one ?"
    "What kind of story would you like to hear ?"
    Her eyes expressed something like surprise, insecurity and sadness. Eventually she found her voice again.

    That evening we met again for a talk. Lying in front of the fire I asked her about Nord habits.
    "And what about the skulls ?"
    "Ah, yes, the skulls. When Nordland was less civilized than today, enemies were beheaded and their skulls prepared to serve as drinking vessels. But that`s long ago. Some of these skulls are still part of family heritages, especially if the skull`s former owner was famous. But in fact they don`t get used anymore."
    "So Jeremus can stop worrying ?"
    "Yes, but don`t tell him."

    She smiled. And her smile was so friendly and trusting, that I finally felt courageous enough to do something I had put off too long.
    "Matheld, there is something I want to tell you. I..."
    "Before you tell me more, and I know what it is already, you should know something. I am Matheld, daughter of Ansgar the Black, Thane of Tavestland. When I reached adulthood at age 16, my father decided to marry me to the Thane of Sørbotten, Svend Tveskæg, or Sven Forkbeard in your language. He was nearly twenty years older and a kind and loving husband. But we had no luck. Two years later he died in a battle. Since we had no children, I should have been his heiress. But my brother-in-law convinced or bribed my husbands followers to make him the new Thane with the false explanation, that the laws exclude female succession.

    Having to fear for my life, I fled from Nordland and came here. I try to find support and raise an army so I can return home and take what`s lawfully mine."
    "You want to leave ?"
    "As soon as possible."
    "Is there no way to reach your heart and make you stay here, Mylady ?"
    "You can try."

    I guess she was honest to me when telling me her plans. But her look was inviting and expressed affection. I got closer to her, stroke over her face and hair. So did she. We kissed each other, our breathing accelerated, our hands lost their way and when pulling up her shirt I could see her soft and pale-skinned...

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:53.

  20. #20
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    Day 328 - A brotherhood of warriors

    "...and then you really asked him to surrender ?"
    "I`m afraid yes."
    "That`s nothing one should be ashamed of.". He laughed.
    "I`ve heard about it but couldn`t believe. Oh, I wish I`d seen Gerluchs face in that moment. I know him. He`s an outstanding warrior but too proud about his deeds. That should have taught him some humility."
    He made a pause.
    "I really wanted to see the man who treated Gerluchs like that. But I thought you would be my guest."

    I wanted to spend the whole winter in Chide. But in early February the King started a new campaign. It began almost boring. The annalists had already stopped counting how often Unuzdaq Castle had changed hands during the last year. And now it was conquered by us once again. But three days ago something astonishing happened.

    We met a Vaegir force that was on a campaign against the Khergit too. And a Khergit army ready for battle. We decided to join the fight and about 350 Khergit faced a combined force of more than 600 Swadian and Vaegir. The terrain wasn`t perfect for cavalry battles, so the Khergit approached slowly, trying to wear us down with their horse archers. But our archers, reinforced by the Vaegir`s, did more damage to them than they to us. Finally it came to a melee. When the Khergit lanciers charged, our Knights spurred their horses.

    What came next wasn`t a battle but pure chaos. Among hundreds of mounted troops who were riding around at full speed it was hard to separate friend from foe. Even worse, there were some Swadian and Vaegir infantrymen fighting for the Khergit. Recruited prisoners of war are a common sight but had the effect, that one lost track of things even faster. Furthermore there were more and more straying horses on the battlefield, hampering movements of all others. I did my best to keep an overview while fighting the enemy, but suddenly my horse got killed.

    `Back to the retreat line or this is your last day on earth`, I thought in that moment and began to ran backward. In the next minutes I understood the helplessness of an infantrymen when among mounted troops. They are faster, fighting from an elevated position and can attack and retreat at will. So one has to be extremely careful not to get run over while moving towards the destination. I reached our line exhausted and wounded, having killed two incautious Khergit.

    From our position we shot bolts at passing enemies and killed those stupid enough to attack a line of spearman all alone. Eventually the battle was over. The Khergit force was virtually destroyed, but we had severe casualties too. The Khergit commander, Sanjar Khan himself, was captured by one of my Knights and now I was sitting with him at a table for dinner and a small talk.

    "Do you really expected, that Gerluchs would accept your offer ?", he asked.
    "At least I did hope so. It`s cruel to sacrifice soldiers in a fight that is lost from the beginning."
    "Yes it is. But he had no choice. It`s better to start a fight without a chance of winning it than surrender and show weakness in front of your men, the enemy, the nobles and, in Gerluchs` case, your liege lord."
    "Why should anyone mind about them and their opinion."
    "Because it`s all about reputation among warriors. There are dozens of Lords, serving different Kings but sharing a common codex. And following the Codex decides, if you are accepted among your class or not. You have sworn to fight your King`s enemies, so you are considered a coward if you surrender without a fight. It is expected that you treat all nobles with respect, so you are considered a villain if you refuse to set a prisoner free when a ransom has been offered. These rules are simple, but they make sure that, even in war, hostilities don`t get out of control and everything that happens is forgiven and forgot as soon as peace is arranged."

    "Sounds fine. But how come these rules seem to protect the Nobles only ? You say, preventing a bloodshed and keeping someone prisoner as long as I wish to violates the Codex. But looting and burning villages, killing peasants and robbing caravans doesn`t ? It happens every day. How come, the ordinary people don`t share the benefits of a Codex created by those with power and wealth ?"

    Sanjar looked at me quite thoughtful, as if he was unsure what to say next.
    "Yes, you are right. We are still barbarians, but the bleak truth is, that there is no alternative at hand. Right now, only the Lords benefit from the Codex and the rest of the world has got to take care for itself. I don`t like that too. But no Realm and no Lord in Calradia is powerful enough to protect life and liberty of their subjects and punish those who threatens them."
    "Maybe a new empire would change that."
    "We should try. If you see Harlaus next time, tell him, I`d be pleased to incorporate his and the other realms into mine so an era of peace, security and prosperity for all people can commence."

    When taking a walk around the camp I considered what he said. Or what he tried to say in a roundabout way. He and the other Kings don`t control their realms. It`s up to the Nobles to run the country. Kings and Nobles are addicted to each other. The Nobles need the King to legitimate their rule. The King needs the Lords to manage and defend the country more or less effectively. So every proposal for a general legal system is doomed since it would curtail the Lord`s power to run their fief at their discretion. And the King can`t enforce such a system against the Lord`s will since he desperately needs their service to wage war.

    In that moment I recalled Uzara`s design again. A scary design, as I thought. Still I was eager to see things change. And soon an opportunity to do so disclosed. It began, when a messenger from King Harlaus appeared.

    "Greetings, Lord de Courtenay. I deliver a message from the Khergit High Council send to King Harlaus. They offer 10.000 denars for the release of Sanjar Khan."
    "Accepted. Anythig else ?"
    "Yes, Sir. Here is a letter from King Harlaus concerning a task that needs to be executed."

    I took the document and after reading it I ordered to raise camp. Soon afterwards we were heading toward Sargoth.

    to be continued (please post in the "Making of"-Thread)
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 29-12-2008 at 15:53.

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